Helping Someone with Gambling Addiction

Gambling addiction can be an immense challenge to overcome. Not only can it severely affect the mental and social health of an individual, but it can also leave them in financial ruin.

Trying to help someone with a gambling addiction is so difficult because it can be hard to know what help is out there and whether it is really needed.

Telling the difference between harmless fun and a gambling problem is always the first hurdle when trying to help out a friend or loved one, so understanding the components of gambling addiction is essential.

The difference between fun and addiction

If you think someone you know might have a gambling addiction, there are certain things to look out for before approaching them.

You should only approach someone if they are exhibiting some of the following signs and behaviours. If someone is a healthy gambler and you approach them, it may cause upset or anger.

When it comes to your loved one, how many of the following statements apply to them?

  • They bet more than they can afford.
  • They borrow money or sell things to pay for gambling.
  • The size of their bets increases over time.
  • They bet profusely to win their money back.
  • They have expressed concern about their own gambling but are unable to stop.
  • Gambling causes them severe stress or anxiety.
  • Other people have mentioned their gambling and expressed concern.
  • Their gambling has brought financial strain upon their family or household.

Although it is not an exact science, your loved one may have a gambling problem if they frequently exhibit some of these behaviours.

Overall, the key things to look out for are frequent gambling, associated stress or anxiety, and a lack of restraint despite not being able to afford it.

How to approach someone about their addiction

Approaching anyone about addiction is hard. They may not see the damage they are doing to themselves or others, and so drawing their attention to what they are doing may cause them to feel cornered or attacked.

With gambling, it can be especially difficult to talk about as research shows it is one of the most stigmatised conditions [1]. If approached, an individual might get defensive, rejecting the image of being a gambler, and ignore the concerns you have as they do not apply to them.

When attempting to talk to someone about their gambling addiction, it is important to remember a few key tips.

1. Be honest and open

When approaching someone about their gambling addiction, don’t try to conceal what your intentions are with the conversation.

The individual may be defensive, to begin with, so if you approach them in a deceptive way, they may behave in a similar fashion and shut off.

Being clear and compassionate is the best way to go. If you show them that you care and have genuine concerns, they will be more likely to hear you out and consider what you are saying.

2. Support – don’t judge

Addiction is a sensitive topic and requires a delicate approach.

The worst way to talk to someone about your concerns is to judge them and express anger at what they are doing. This will likely push them away and make them ignore what you have to say.

Instead, speak with support and care. Show them that, while there is a problem, you ultimately want to help them.

3. Talk about the toll on you

When an individual succumbs to addiction, they often fail to see the impact their actions are having on the people around them.

It is important to make these effects known to them, especially with gambling as the financial impact of their actions can be devastating.

When talking to them, express how their gambling makes you feel and how it influences the lives of the people around them.

4. Step back when needed

It is likely that, due to their addiction, the individual may become hostile when you talk to them.

They don’t see a problem, they believe they haven’t got an addiction, and so will be angrily confused at your approach.

When this happens, take a break. Come back to the conversation when they have cooled off and try again. Your patience and persistence will eventually let them know that your concerns are serious and well-meaning

5. Offer help for the future

Addressing the problem, while difficult, is only half the battle. It is important to communicate to the individual what options lie ahead.

If you are going to tell them they have a problem, you need to be equipped with the knowledge of what treatments are available and how you can support them going forward.

Before approaching them, do your research and think about what you and others are willing to do to help.

How to get help

If your loved one agrees to seek help, it’s important to support them.

Not only do you need to assist them in getting professional help, but there are things that you need to do in order to help them along on a day-to-day basis.

Professional help

The best way to start looking for help is to speak to a GP or specialised organisation. There are a lot of people out there who know about gambling addiction and have treatment routes to offer.

One of the main methods available is Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT). This is where the individual is taught to identify their unhealthy thinking and behaviour patterns and work to change them.

These sessions can be one-to-one with a professional, or as part of a group. These sessions can help individuals relate to others in a similar situation and see the benefits of therapy.

How you can help

While medical help is essential, it relies on the efforts of the individual’s family and friends to be effective.

In order to help them on their recovery plan, here are a few things you should encourage the individual to adapt and keep up with:

  • Paying important bills on payday – to help curb the desire to gamble, help the individual develop the habit of paying for utilities and rent as soon as they can. This will reduce the amount of money available for them to gamble, and reduce the impact of a possible relapse on their financial situation.
  • Spending more time with friends and family – maintaining positive social bonds is essential for coping without the crutch of addiction. Keeping the individual around people who care about them and do not gamble can be a massive boost to their mental health.

It is also important to help keep your loved one away from negative influences. Things to look out for may include:

  • Keeping things to themselves – like other addictions, gambling can be a way for people to deal with their everyday lives. If a loved one is struggling, encourage them to talk about it as this can help develop a healthier way of handling difficult emotions.
  • Carrying large amounts of money – if an individual doesn’t have the means to gamble, they can’t do it. Limit the amount of money they carry, including credit cards with essential funds on them.

Tackling addiction is an immense challenge, but making the individual aware that they are not alone will be a huge boost for them.

When they are going through treatment, help them in any way that you can to develop and maintain healthy routines and thought processes.